Comparative in vitro toxicity profile of electronic and tobacco cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and nicotine replacement therapy products: e-liquids, extracts and collected aerosols

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Oct 30;11(11):11325-47. doi: 10.3390/ijerph111111325.


The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) continues to increase worldwide in parallel with accumulating information on their potential toxicity and safety. In this study, an in vitro battery of established assays was used to examine the cytotoxicity, mutagenicity, genotoxicity and inflammatory responses of certain commercial e-cigs and compared to tobacco burning cigarettes, smokeless tobacco (SLT) products and a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product. The toxicity evaluation was performed on e-liquids and pad-collected aerosols of e-cigs, pad-collected smoke condensates of tobacco cigarettes and extracts of SLT and NRT products. In all assays, exposures with e-cig liquids and collected aerosols, at the doses tested, showed no significant activity when compared to tobacco burning cigarettes. Results for the e-cigs, with and without nicotine in two evaluated flavor variants, were very similar in all assays, indicating that the presence of nicotine and flavors, at the levels tested, did not induce any cytotoxic, genotoxic or inflammatory effects. The present findings indicate that neither the e-cig liquids and collected aerosols, nor the extracts of the SLT and NRT products produce any meaningful toxic effects in four widely-applied in vitro test systems, in which the conventional cigarette smoke preparations, at comparable exposures, are markedly cytotoxic and genotoxic.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cricetulus
  • DNA / drug effects
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Nicotiana / toxicity*
  • Smoke / analysis
  • Tobacco Products / toxicity*
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / toxicity*


  • Aerosols
  • Smoke
  • DNA